Introduction: Retailer noncompliance with limited US tobacco regulations on advertising and labeling was historically patterned by neighborhood in ways that promote health disparities. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began enforcing stronger tobacco retailer regulations under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. However, recent research has found no differences in compliance by neighborhood characteristics for FDA advertising and labeling inspections. We sought to investigate the neighborhood characteristics associated with retailer noncompliance with specific FDA advertising and labeling inspections (ie, violations of bans on self-service displays, selling single cigarettes, false or mislabeled products, vending machines, flavored cigarettes, and free samples).
Methods: We coded FDA advertising and labeling warning letters (n = 718) for type of violations and geocoded advertising and labeling inspections from January 1 through July 31, 2014 (N = 33,543). Using multilevel models, we examined cross-sectional associations between types of violations and neighborhood characteristics previously associated with disparities (ie, percentage black, Latino, under the poverty line, and younger than 18 years).
Results: Retailer advertising and labeling violations are patterned by who lives in the neighborhood; regulated tobacco products are more likely to be stored behind the counter as the percentage of black or Latino residents increases, and single cigarettes are more often available for purchase in neighborhoods as the percentage of black, poor, or young residents increases.
Conclusion: Contrary to previous null findings, noncompliance with FDA advertising and labeling regulations is patterned by neighborhood characteristics, sometimes in opposite directions. Given the low likelihood of self-service violations in the same neighborhoods that have high likelihood of single cigarette sales, we suggest targeted approaches to FDA retailer inspections and education campaigns.